Canberra, Australia (WNN) – Australian government ministers welcomed France’s decision to return its ambassador to Australia and said on Thursday they hoped both countries can repair damage from the canceled submarine contract.
“We welcome the French ambassador to Canberra, and hope we can move on from our recent disappointments,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, deputy leader of the ruling conservative Liberal Party, told Nine Network TV.
France withdrew its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra last month after Australia canceled a 90 billion Australian dollar ($66 billion) contract with the majority French state-owned naval conglomerate to build 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines. done.
Under an alliance that also includes Britain, Australia will instead acquire a fleet of eight nuclear-powered submarines built with American technology.
France soon returned its ambassador to the United States, a NATO partner.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a parliamentary committee: “I have now asked my ambassador to return to Canberra with two missions: to help redefine the terms of our relationship with Australia in the future. to protect our interests in concrete. Implementation of the Australian decision to end the program for future submarines.”
It is not yet clear how much the termination of the contract signed in 2016 will cost Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia had already spent AU$2.4 billion ($1.8 billion) on the project.
Frydenberg said Australia and France have many common interests, “particularly in our work together in this area.”
“So let’s hope we can get that relationship back on track,” Frydenberg said.
France and its EU partners have reacted with hostility towards Australia over its shock decision to end the France deal.
Morrison said on Tuesday that French President Emmanuel Macron would not take his call.
In Paris this week, trade minister Dan Tehan was ignored by French officials.
Negotiations on a free trade deal between Australia and the European Union due this month have been postponed until November. German MP and chairman of the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee Bernd Lang said questions had been raised about whether Australia could be trusted.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud saw the ambassador’s return as a positive sign.
“We understand their disappointment, but at some point we have to move on, and we believe the EU Free Trade Agreement will be a good turning point,” Littleproud said.
“After the disappointment, they understand that we need to move on and continue working together,” he said.